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Poor leadership = poor adaption to changes

Changes conjure up many feelings and emotions - excitement, anticipation and happiness, but change can often herald reservation, concern, even fear.

While many leaders extol the benefits of change, not everyone shares that enthusiasm.

A client outlined the challenge he saw in taking on his new role as CEO. This challenge revolved around the level of fear he sensed throughout his new organisation. Phrases like "I can see the fear in their eyes" and "deep reservations about the future ahead" were quoted. There will be many reasons for these behaviours a nd this leader faced them as his prime challenge. Without commitment to the journey of necessary change throughout the organisation, he was "on a hiding to nothing".

Poor leadership can give rise to fear. Leaders define, affect and influence the culture of an organisation way beyond their own imagination. Some have no idea of the level of influence their behaviour has on others, not only on their direct reports, but through them on the whole organisation.

Resistance to change can also be due to;

  • Vested interests and personal fiefdoms which work hard to prevent change.
  • Potential organisational blindness to how the outside world really works.
  • Or, team spirit lost in transition.

Every organisation must evolve, adapt and remain sensitive to changes in its industry and others which can undermine what was once a stable and sustainable market. Often leaders read the situation correctly, but then act to bring about change in a way that destroys the very foundations that brought success to the organisation and would have served it well into the future, if only channelled correctly.
So, back to my client. What could he have done? In this instance it was a case of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of what has passed, how his predecessor in attempting to do the right thing – did wrong. Not wrong in realising that change was necessary, but rather in misunderstanding how to deliver change.

History plays a part in defining the behaviours of an organisation "the way we do things around here", and some recognised capability for change. The very success built into the DNA of the organisation that brought it to the current position, that same DNA would if handled correctly, deliver future success in the 'brave new world'. Listening to those who have seen the journey to this point and asking them the right questions such as "What have you learnt when facing this or that challenge in the past"? and "Which solutions worked, which didn't and why was this the case"? Getting under the skin of the what, why and how the organisation responds to the new, what constitutes the resilience amongst the teams and capability to adapt, change and renew - this is key.

Having listened, questioned and understood, it is as vital to acknowledge that history - the strength that has helped so far - and open the dialogue about what the future holds, what part each person thinks they can play and what do they see as the evolution necessary to meet the future.

None of this should detract from the crucial role any leader plays in doing his or her own strategic thinking, market analysis and all the other critical 'outward looking' actions.  The real talent comes in performing the merger of listening and acknowledging within, with diagnosing and refining the challenges and opportunities without. This results in change for good, lessening the fear.

Fundamental to overcoming resistance to change is the building of trust. We can help with this. Contact – peter.buckley@buckley-partnership.co.uk

Maths v English

I wonder if you remember the choices you had to make during school which almost felt like having to choose between Maths and English. The “Now is it going to be science subjects or arts Peter?” question, directly or implied.  Back in the 70’s I chose sciences and that set a path for me over the coming decade. Wow, what a long time when my decision was not founded on any substantive knowledge, enough information or, in truth wise counsel.
 
As the decades passed by, and what is now described as “multiple-careers” with a lot of tough, enjoyable and sometimes confusing outcomes I realised as time went on how much I love the arts; Literature, music, the spoken word, beauty and aesthetics.  
 
As a coach now for over two decades, I have had numerous discussions with clients around what did they want out of life back then, what was your passion and are you living and breathing it now (even if it’s different from before).  Sadly many, far too many are not fulfilled, are not pursuing their passion and know there is something missing in their lives.
 
Having the right person to talk to, with the right conversations, can and does enable all of us to gain far greater insight into who we really are and what we really want out of life – no matter what age we are. Yes, you can change, even with all the responsibilities, commitments and ties that seem to prevent us thinking (i.e. outside the boxes we find hold us to the today, the mundane, the unfulfilled).
 
While working with a wonderful team recently, I was reflecting while facilitating the discussion and solutions around how to meet, exceed and grow EBITDA, and cope, survive and thrive in times of tougher financial targets and tangible cuts that were being explored, and most importantly the themes of trust and how motivation and morale are ‘hurting’ within their business.
 
It dawned on me that the vast majority of discussions that are going on in many organisations revolve around the former; How to cut and how to increase productivity and profitability and deliver the calculated and actionable tasks to achieve this, yet fail totally to really find similar solutions to the latter i.e. How to address and re-build trust, motivation and morale.
 
In my heart, then head, it felt to me like the difference between Maths and English.
 
Maths versus EnglishMaths – as I saw it then, was anodyne, formulaic and followed clear heuristics to reach logical and finite decisions for action, while English on the other hand was discursive, emotional, motivational, inspirational and, critically, created pictures of a future, a brighter future that when written and spoken well can raise the human soul, individuals and teams alike to achieve wonderful, and at times, unbelievable successes.
 
That was it – turning to the group I mentioned “Maths v English”, explained what I meant, and from that moment on we complimented the hard Maths work with robust, tangible and achievable English. Together the outcome of both delivered more, far more than anyone expected and critically created a legacy that to this day sustains and allows for on-going dialogue, continuing iteration and innovative solutions which in turn maintain morale and motivation, in both good and tough times.
 
Do you consider your ‘English’, or is it ‘Maths’ that is the sole medium used in your organisation? Why not explore ‘English’ further and who knows, the short-termism of many ‘Maths’ initiatives can be complemented with enduring trust, motivation and tangible positive morale.

Managing your Chimp!

Recently I've been sharing with a number of successful individuals I coach, the whole concept of "managing your chimp". This all comes from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox' by Dr Steve Peters. Dr Peters works in elite sport and has been the resident psychiatrist with the British Cycling team since 2001 and also the SKY ProCycling team. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan have all spoken publicly about how Dr Peters' unique Chimp Model has helped improve their performance. He has also been involved in 12 other Olympic sports and has recently been hired by Brendan Rogers at Liverpool FC!

His theory is that everyone has two personalities - a human and a chimp. You the human thinks logically and works with facts and truth. You the chimp thinks emotionally and uses impressions and feelings. The Chimp is an emotional machine that will hijack you of you allow it to. It is not good or bad ; it is a Chimp. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy - this is the Chimp Paradox.

This book is well worth reading if you find yourself wondering why things are happening that you would like to change. It makes you think about how you react to situations.

Here is one excerpt that some of you might be able to identify with - it made me think for sure

In the middle of the night

Imagine that you have gone to sleep with something on your mind that is really concerning you. You wake up in the night and your mind starts racing. At this point, the Human is fast asleep and the Chimp is in total control. Therefore your thinking is irrational and emotional. The Chimp will think and see things catastrophically and worry you for however long you are "awake". Eventually you will fall back to sleep and come round again in the morning. You now get out of bed and wonder why you were thinking so emotionally during the night.

The answer is simple : during the night your brain changes its functioning and the human no longer gives any check to the chimp. In the morning the human is now rational and puts things back into perspective. Nothing seems as bad once you return to human functioning. There is a simple lesson to learn and a golden rule to follow.

The simple lesson is that, unless you are a night shift worker, between the hours of 11pm and 7am you are in Chimp mode with emotional and irrational thinking. You rarely think with perspective and this will only return after 7 in the morning (I accept this isn't a good thing for someone like me who get s up at 5.30am, but I am working on it, or at least not doing too much focused thinking!). The golden rule therefore is :
If you wake during the night, any thoughts and feelings you might have are from your Chimp and are very often disturbing, catastrophic and lacking in perspective. In the morning you are likely to regret engaging with these thoughts and feelings because you will see things differently.

Try to develop an autopilot that says I am not prepared to take any thinking seriously during night-time hours when the Chimp is in charge.

One key point I take from this short extract is that it is worth thinking about if you ever find yourself worrying or stressing about something and then a few weeks later you wonder why on earth you ever allowed yourself to get so worked up over something relatively unimportant.

When working with others – perhaps share this knowledge while encouraging them not to stress too much outside of working hours, Let's face it, you need them to be fully switched on and positive at work, worrying late at night when often it's not rational will diminish their personal productivity.

'The Chimp Paradox' is indeed well worth reading for those of you interested in how the mind works, and for those who prefer audio, the best bit is Steve Peters is British (i.e. unlike many audio books it's not coming with an American accent!).

Changing companies’ minds about women

Diversity is the key to driving change in any organisation. As the wage gap slowly decreases, the need to break down invisible barriers for women in the workforce is still prevalent. How do we overcome these and manage these challenges?

Brash, J and Yee, L. (2011) Organisation Practice: Changing companies’ minds about women. McKinsey Quarterly.



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